Date of Award

Fall 2023

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Political Science

First Advisor

Kirk Randazzo


My dissertation examines the citation of a pair of contradictory Supreme Court decisions penned by Chief Justice John Marshall—Johnson v. McIntosh (1823) and Worcester v. Georgia (1832)—to answer questions in three distinct realms. First, it answers whether and to what degree the Doctrine of Discovery, as presented by Marshall in Johnson, is fundamentally Lockean. Second, it answers the question of whether the Court acts as a majoritarian institution with regards to its indigenous jurisprudence. Third, it answers questions regarding strategic behavior in the American judicial hierarchy, focusing on the precedents’ citation in lower federal courts, state supreme courts, and tribal courts to determine whether and to what degree those courts’ judges exhibit strategic decision-making in their citation choices. In this dissertation, I argue that these two precedents have antipodal theoretical groundings and find weak evidence that the U.S. Supreme Court’s citation patterns reflect deference to the elected branches. Specifically, the Court exhibited a greater likelihood of citing Worcester (the more pro-indigenous decision) during the Self-Determination Era, and the lower federal courts exhibit a similar trend, suggesting their deference to the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence during this era. State supreme courts exhibited a consistent, statistically significant proclivity to cite Johnson (which vests power over indigenous nations in the states). Tribal court judges, by contrast, emphasized Worcester to support indigenous nations’ sovereignty and autonomy. This study contributes to our understanding of judicial decision-making by focusing on the underlying logics of court decisions and the subsequent citation of those decisions. The implications of my analyses offer fresh insights into judicial decision-making regarding a pair of precedents that have long exerted an outsized effect on indigenous people’s lives—precedents which have experienced a recent resurgence in Supreme Court jurisprudence.


© 2024, Anthony Wayne Hobert Jr.